Joseph, Wallowa Chieftain

Wallowa Chieftain
[LCCN: sn94052752]
Joseph, Union County, Or.

Wallowa County Chieftain
[LCCN: sn96088042]
Enterprise, Or.

The Wallowa Chieftain [LCCN: sn94052752] was first launched in Joseph, Oregon, on May 15, 1884, by a group of local businessmen headed by Frank D. McCully.  The Chieftain began as a six-column, four-page weekly distributed on Thursdays at $2.00 for a year’s subscription, serving the communities of Joseph and Enterprise in the newly founded Wallowa County.

In part, the paper functioned as a sounding board for regional economic boosterism.   McCully remained in the background as a financial backer for two years before formally taking a position as manager, conducting the paper until 1892. In 1893, Editor Ernest Duerselen oversaw the transfer of the Chieftain to the town of Enterprise, a political move by local Republicans designed to check the influence of Wallowa’s Populist party. Soon after, William E. Beers took over publication, replacing Duerselen with Frank A. Clarke, but maintaining the paper’s political opposition to the Populists until 1896.

The Chieftain reported national and international news in addition to local bulletins through the use of press ready-prints. In 1884, the front page featured women’s, children’s, and editor’s columns, poems, short stories, and advertisements. By 1888, the paper expanded to eight pages. McCully added a regular “Women and Home” section in 1892 that highlighted the habits of Victorian women. By 1902, the Chieftain included a serialized fiction segment that featured sections of popular novels by authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle. In 1909, women’s fashion became a mainstay of the “Women’s Realm” column and the “Farm and Garden” section provided gardening tips to the Chieftain’s readers.

The Wallowa Chieftain downplayed issues of race and ethnicity in the early editions. In advertisements, Chinese immigrants were depicted as foreign, exotic practitioners of “celestial” medicine and science. However, the paper’s report of the massacre of Chinese miners at nearby Hells Canyon in 1887 appeared sympathetic to the victims. Though the paper was named after Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, coverage of Native American issues was thin and ambivalent, and Chief Joseph’s public request to resettle in the Wallowa Valley in 1900 was met by a reluctant Chieftain which urged that Joseph not be allowed to return.

From 1896 to 1902, the Chieftain was co-managed by Carl Roe and Levi J. Rouse. Roe conducted the paper independently for another two years until he sold to publisher Ben Weathers in 1904. After four years, Weathers sold the Chieftain to the owners of Enterprise News-Record [LCCN: sn96088044], former Enterprise competitors, who then published the Chieftain alongside their existing paper.  Co-publication lasted until June of 1911 when the News-Record merged with the recently renamed Wallowa County Chieftain [LCCN: sn96088042] to become the Enterprise Record Chieftain [LCCN: sn96088041]. Owners Homer A. Galloway and Snow V. Heaton then sold the paper to Kansas City editor George P. Cheney in November 1911.  Cheney operated the paper as the Enterprise Record Chieftain until changing the name to Enterprise Chieftain [LCCN: sn96088047] in 1938. Since 1943, the press has continued publication to the present as the Wallowa County Chieftain [LCCN: sn90057139].

Prepared with reference to:
Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1939.

— Written by Patrick Lozar and Daniel Rinn

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